02/27/11 Paul Armentano

Century of Lies

Paul Armentano of NORML re big pharma claims on marijuana, Tom DAubert re Montana Leg attempt to overthrow med MJ law & Dr. Rick Doblin of MAPS re MDMA progress, Texas tour & CBS News take on US "walking" guns into Mexico

Audio file


Century of Lies / February 27, 2011


The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. We’ve got a great show lined up for you. We’re going to hear from Mister Tom Daubert from Montana. He’s a drug reformer who’s working against the legislature who wants to overturn their medical marijuana laws. We’re going to hear from Doctor Rick Doblin, the Head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies but first:

Paul Armentano: I’m Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Dean Becker: Paul, as always, you’re always busy analyzing the data, finding new subjects that we ought to delve into and you’ve got a great piece that’s now on AlterNet, talking about if the feds get that big pharma could sell pot, but your dime bag would still send you to jail. Tell us about that piece, please.

Paul Armentano: Sure, this is an analysis of a DEA posting in the federal register that appeared back in November and in this update, the DEA made it clear that they intend to reschedule forthcoming FDA approved products that either contain a synthetic analog of THC or in some cases could contain plant derived THC.

What the DEA is proposing to do is to allow products that are approved by the FDA that include these compounds, including potentially naturally derived extracts from the marijuana plant, those would be placed in Schedule III, under the United States Controlled Substances Act.

So, those would be products that could be legally marketed and sold in the United States. At the same time, the DEA has maintained that there intent with this regulatory change would be to continue to maintain criminal prohibition over the marijuana plant itself or even a natural extract from the marijuana plat itself, assuming those extracts is not included as an FDA approved medication.

So, the plan itself and the compounds in marijuana themselves would remain a Schedule I and the only thing that would shift to Schedule III would be synthetic analogs in an FDA approved product or plant derived THC the extract, if those are in an FDA approved product.

There are several pharmaceutical products that are pending FDA approval that do contain synthetic either versions of THC or plant derived extracts of THC and that’s what’s prompting the DEA to consider rescheduling.

Dean Becker: Now, this brings to mind a situation that the supply of their cannabis is also limited. Do you want to talk about that?

Paul Armentano: Sure, one of the ironies of this move, if it come to fruition, is that by maintaining a blanket prohibition over the production and possession of the marijuana plant itself, it severely limits where a pharmaceutical company that would wish to bring an FDA approved product containing natural THC to market, it limits where that company could get the THC from.

Obviously, that company could not grow the marijuana and extract the THC from the marijuana itself that would be considered illegal. So, the only legal supply source for natural THC for these products would have to the federal government because presently they are the only legally licensed entity to grow marijuana for these purposes.

Of course, the soul holder of that federal license is Mahmoud ElSohly and his lab at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. It is not a coincidence that ElSohly already has at least one working contract with a pharmaceutical company to provide them with plant derived THC.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Paul, talking about the extracts of the THC, I’ve seen reports from the Beckley Foundation that indicates the THC alone can create an imbalance and to further underline what I am saying here, I know that the outfit GW Pharmaceuticals has a product Sativex contains a blend of THC and certain of the cannabinoids for a more balanced product. What’s your thought in that regard?

Paul Armentano: Well, the real strength in marijuana as a medicine is the fact that it is not a single molecule compound but it is a plant that consists of numerous therapeutic active compounds.

THC is one of those cannabidiol of CBD which is the other primary compound in Sativex that you had mentioned which also has therapeutic utility and several other compounds as well. THC is arguably the cost studied of these compounds but there is growing data pertaining to the therapeutic utility of CBD and these other compounds as well.

So, certainly one would hope that as we continue to learn more about the plant and study this plant for medical purposes that individuals will understand that this is not a matter of isolating a certain compound but the matter of utilizing the multiple compounds in this plant. That’s why ultimately and arguably the greatest effectiveness of marijuana remains in the use of the whole plant itself, as opposed to isolating one or two individual compounds of the plant.

Clearly, Western medicine is more comfortable with isolating individual compounds to treat individual symptoms. So, it’s not surprising to see the DEA and certain pharmaceutical companies go that route with marijuana.

GW pharmaceuticals and their product Sativex is actually a terrific example of a company going in the other direction in understanding that arguably, the most therapeutic benefit from marijuana is in taking a more holistic approach to the plant and that is why their product contains multiple active compounds of the marijuana plant as opposed to just a single isolated compound.

Dean Becker: Coming back to the heart of this matter, what – if I understand correctly, Paul, is that they are going to allow the use of extracts from the real marijuana plant to be put into pills and probably sold at $10-20 apiece and still deny us the right to grow and use our own marijuana as the various strains for the various maladies might indicate and might be the better method. Your response?

Paul Armentano: Sure, the DEA is very clear on this and there was a fairly good article that appeared in the on-line publication Daily Caller a couple of weeks ago and it layed out just what you said. He made it clear that this is a regulatory change that would only apply to forthcoming FDA approved products and that this change would have absolutely no bearing on individuals who used either the marijuana plant itself or extracts of the marijuana plant, which are actually noe quite popular in the states that have legalized medical marijuana.

It’s quite readily available and one can get extracts in California, in Colorado and several of these other states. Nonetheless even is this change were to go through those practices of using those extracts, even when you are doing so in the state that allows the medical use of medical marijuana that would be illegal under federal law because those products would remain classified as Schedule I controlled substances.

This change would only apply to FDA approved pharmaceuticals. Now that in and of itself is, I don’t necessarily think, is a bad thing. I think it is definitely progress for the DEA to allow for the greater research and development of these sort of products and to allow competitors to come to the United States market.

I think it will allow patents greater choices. I think it will bring down the typical price of cannabis based pharmaceuticals but at the same time, making that change should not be a justification of continuing to target, arrest and prosecute patients who don’t what to go the route of using and pharmaceutical product and believe that they find greater relief in the plant itself. It shouldn’t be one or the other.

The DEA should acknowledge the benefit of medical marijuana by allowing these products to move forward at the same time that it acknowledges that we have literlly hundreds of thousands in this country using the marijuana the plant in its natural compounds medically and that those individual should not face criminal prosecution for doing so.

Dean Becker: Well as always, it’s a pleasure to talk with you, Paul. I depend on you for being the guy who has his ear to the ground and his eye out there on the horizon to bring us the skinny on all of these shenanigans, maybe there’s a better word but anyway. Paul, there is a great conference coming up here in just a couple of months in Denver. Why don’t you tell us about that?

Paul Armentano: Sure NORML will be holding its 40th annual national conference in Denver and the dates of that conference are April 21st through the 23rd. That’s a Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver.

I would also note that NORML itself turns forty next week Wednesday March 2nd is the 40th anniversary of the founding of NORML. This conference taking place in April is going to be in many ways a retrospective and sort of look back at the history of NORMAL, what we have accomplished in the past forty years and of course we will be looking forward at the changes that are taking place now and the changes that we expect to see in the future. That is why we are holding it in Denver, which is quite arguably the cannabis capitol of the United States.

Dean Becker: Alright Paul, if folks would like to learn more please point them towards your website.

Paul Armentano: Sure, they can learn more about NORML and they can register for NORML’s upcoming conference by going to norml.org


Tom Daubert: Well, I’m Tom Daubert, founder and director of a grassroots group in Montana called Patients and Families Untied, which does public education work in support of the interests of medical marijuana patients as well as pain patents whether they use cannabis or not.

Right now the Montana legislature is in session, it just reached its midpoint today and the entire concept of medical marijuana is under attack as a result of growing backlash here over several years.

There are upwards of a dozen bills still at play, many of which are punitive and overreacting in nature and the most extreme of which would literally and completely repeal our law outright.

Dean Becker: Well Tom, this is an effort that goes quite contrary to the will of the people of Montana. Tell us about the referendum that put this law in place.

Tom Daubert: Well, what it actually does, Dean, we have new insight because we just did a poll here a few days ago, but the policy was adopted by the voters in 2004, which at the time was the strongest vote of any of the marijuana states of America at 62%.

The poll we conducted last weekend, a telephone survey of randomly selected stistically valid sample more the 2000 Montanans, found that 63% today, one point more, still support the policy of protecting patients and allowing them to use cannabis.

Only 20% of adult Montanans support the idea of repealing the law. So, that was gratifying to hear but we’re hoping the legislature will end up agreeing with that view.
76% of Montanans think the law should be left as is or strengthened with legislation and most of them, about 50-60% in that realm, think the the law should be strentghened with new legislation and we agree. Patients and Families Untied, agrees.

Dean Becker: Tom, this brings to mind that each of the individual states, fifteen now and Washington DC are kind of like individual test markets, if you will, things are going well in some states and not so well in others. What was the cause of all the hoopla? Why are all of these politicians up in arms?

Tom Daubert: Well, I think the main reason, Dean, is that some very extreme opportunists exploited some of the law’s loopholes and gray areas to their advantage and were very flagrant and in doing that.

What I mean specifically is that one person started an operation that put in travelling masked clinics were in a single day as many as a thousand people were able to get recommendations from physicians, many of them with no medical records, no physical exams and no personal encounter with a physician.

This was done very flagrantly and it violates both the spirit as well as the letter of the law but unfortunately for strange reasons, it wasn’t something that could be enforced particularly easily. So, that went on for more than a year here, accounting for close to 20,000 of the patients that are now registered.

In addition, a handful of dispensaries opened and were very ostentatious and flashy in their marketing and their behavior and their locations and it just wasn’t in keeping with the kind of cultural climate that would have worked, shall we say, in Montana.

So, it allowed backlash to grow and get traction and for the first time actually a well-organized and well-funded group that is focused on the goal of repealing the law completely. It’s a group that calls itself Safe Communities, Safe Kids.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Mister Tom Daubert who works for patients’ rights up in Montana. Would you like to share your website with the listeners, please?

Tom Daubert: Well, our website is www.mtpsu.org. We also have a Facebook page that we’re using to keep people in touch with both news events, as well as the ongoing movement at the capitol and the hearing schedule and things like that.

The good news is there is an awful lot of consensus about what to do about the law. Law enforcement and local governments and my organization, Patients and Families Untied, are pretty much in complete agreement about how to fix the problems, close the loopholes and clarify the law not only as to stop the exploitation and make it work as intended but also to make it work better for patients.

We have a political challenge and that is to sell that consensus to the legislature, which is getting an awful, awful lot of pressure from a very animated minority of Montanas.


Rick Doblin, Ph.D.: I’m Rick Doblin, Ph.D. and I’m the founder and Executive Director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, also known as MAPS and our website is maps.org.

Dean Becker: Rick, I apologize it’s been several months since we have had any discussion bit there have been a lot of breakthroughs, a lot of progress in so far as the efforts of MAPS in the last few months right?

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.: Yes. Our primary effort is in the development of MDMA, assisted psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] and we’ve been – recently I was in Israel and Jordon. We have studies in both of those places. We just ran a therapist training program for five days in Israel and we actually brought several – three therapists came from Australia and we are thinking of starting a study there, as well. Then we went for several days into Jordan.

So, our protocols are moving through the reviews process in Israel Jordan and also Canada and we’ve been primarily doing a study in the United States with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There was just a tremendous article in O magazine, Oprah’s magazine about MDMA PTSD. It’s on the stands right now in their March issue and that I think is one of the highlights for us for the mainstreaming of psychedelics, to get Oprah Magazine to talk about it in a very positive way.

Even to my utter astonishment, the reporter describes an underground illegal MDMA therapy session that she went – participated in herself and how helpful it was to her. So, we’ve done pretty well.

There’s a National Geographic special documentary that just came out on ecstasy that also interviewed me and gave me the last word about the need for research of both risks and benefits in a balanced way. So, we’re really moving forward.

We also have a marijuana Post Traumatic Stress Disorder protocol before the FDA and we had a meeting with the FDA’s division of psychiatry products and controlled substance staff about some design elements because it may end up being the first study over thirty years in which marijuana is given to patents to take at home rather than the hospital setting.

That meeting with the FDA went very well and now we need to a resubmit and after that once we get FDA approval we have to submit to NIDA and the Public Health Service for review. You know NIDA has a monopoly on the supply and they’re not so interested in giving it to studies that look at benefits.

Dean Becker: Once again, were speaking with Doctor Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Now, I understand rick that there’s going to be a mini tour through Texas in the coming days to talk about progress in regards to MDMA, what can you tell us about that?

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.: Yes, Dean, there is, on March 9th. I’ve been invited to give grand rounds, which means speak to physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center which is affiliated with the VA North Texas system. So, I’ll be doing a grand rounds talk there during the day and then in the evening in Dallas on March 9th we’ll have a fundraising get together. On Thursday, March 10th we’ll have a fundraising get together in Austin, Then, on March 11th we’ll be in Houston.

If anybody is interested in details about coming to them there is some information in the MAPS website and also you can email: brian@maps.org.

Dean Becker: I seldom, truthfully, get into psychedelics. The new information that’s gathering every day, truthfully and next week we hope to sit down at that Houston get together for an interview where we can get into more detail about some of that progress.

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.: Well, Dean, we’ve been talking for so many years. I really enjoy talking with you and you know there are a lot of details.L week there was an article that was published in the Addiction Magazine about a $1.8 million NIDA funded study of the long term neurocognitive consequences of ecstasy use because of MDMA brain damage and the only functional consequences have supposedly have been in memory problems.

So, this was a study that MAPS did. We did a pilot study on that and then the researcher used it to get the $1.8 million grant and the data has just been reveled and there is no evidence that in a properly controlled study that no evidence of MDMA causing cognitive consequences. So, there’s a lot of details and a lot of research and I would love to talk about it.

Dean Becker: As I said, I have limited exposure to information, of late, I’ve been focusing more on the horrors of Mexico, I suppose but I have noticed that that is indications of MDMA when it is pure, when it is not some black market concoction is a whole lot less dangerous. Your thought there, sir?

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.: Well, every drug has its risks and every drug has its potential benefits and MDMA is no different. MDMA is not perfectly safe but there has been a lot of efforts on the part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Partnership for Drug Free America and National Drug Control Policy to portray one dose of MDAMA ecstasy as causing permanent brain damage with serious consequences to stop people from using it and that’s unfortunately politics over science.

So, what has been developing over the last twenty, twenty five years is the increasing body of evidence to suggest that the risk of MDMA, certainly from a therapeutic setting are acceptable. The risks are greater when they take it in a recreational setting, even if it is pure MDMA, it is possible to overheat and that can potentially be fatal but if there was adequate harm reduction methods— if we didn’t have to worry about being criminalized and being used as a sign that promoters know that drugs being used and opening them up to prosecution.

If we could have a more humane approach to drugs and drug problems, I think we could be able to reduce the problems that result from MDMA, very far down. I don’t ever think we could get down to zero but we could do a very good job

Dean Becker: Okay, once again we have been speaking with Doctor Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Rick, before we close this out give us a quick summary of where you will be in Texas and how folks might participate.

Rick Doblin, Ph.D.: We’re basically trying to develop psychedelics and marijuana into prescription drugs as a non-profit context, so therefore we need donations from the public because we’ve not been able yet to get any from the government or the pharmaceutical companies because these are generic drugs and then the big foundations, so far at leas,t have been finding it too controversial.

So, I’ll be doing grand rounds at a hospital in Dallas on Wednesday, March 9th at the UT Southwestern Medical Center and then that night we’ll have a fundraising dinner were moving then to Austin on Thursday, March 10th and then to Houston on Friday, March 11th and information about these events are on the MAPS website and people could just contact: brian@maps.org.

Dean Becker: Alright, I’m going to be there to get a more in depth interview with Doctor Doblin. I’m hoping that some of you doctors, nurses and scientists will be there as well.


Dean Becker: Looks like we’ve got just enough time for a slice of CBS News, [Washington]:

Sheryl Attkisson: In late 2009, ATF was alerted to suspicious buys in several gun shops in the Phoenix area. Suspicious because the buyers paid cash, sometimes brought in paper bags and they purchase classic weapons of choice used by Mexican drug traffickers.

Sources tell CBS News that some gun shops wanted to stop the questionable sales but ATF encouraged then to continue. Jamie Avila was one of the suspicious buyers. The ATF put him is their suspect data base in 2010.

For the next year ATF watched as Avella and other suspects bought huge quantities of weapons supposedly for personal use. They included 575 AK-47 type semiautomatic rifles.

ATF managers allegedly made a controversial decision to allow most of the weapons on the streets. The idea was to get intelligence and see where they ended up. Insiders say it’s a dangerous tactic called “letting the guns walk.”

One agent called the strategy “insane.” Another said, “We were fully aware that the guns would be moved across the border to drug cartels where they could be used to kill.” On the phone, one project gun runner source who did not want to be identified told us just how many guns flooded the black market under the ATF’s watchful eye.

Unnamed Source: The numbers are over 2500 on that case, by the way, that’s how many guns were sold, including some 50 calibers that they let walk.

Sheryl Attkisson: With 50 caliber barreled rifles and other guns he believed were headed for the Mexican border but was ordered to let them go. One distraught agent was often heard over on ATF radios begging and pleading to be allowed to intercept transports.

The answer: “Negative. Stand down.”

Sure enough, the weapons soon began surfacing at crime scenes in Mexico. Dozens of them, sources say, including shoot outs with government officials. Then border patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered.

These were the serial numbers on the two assault rifles found at the scene. They match two assault riffles that ATF watched Jamie Avila buy in Phoenix nearly a year before. The nightmare came true, walked guns turned up at a federal agent’s murder.

“You feel like [expletive] you feel for the parents,” one ATF veteran told us.

After Terry was gunned down, ATF finally arrested Avila. They since indicted thirty four suspected gun runners in the same group but the indictment makes no mention of Terry’s murder and no one id charged in his death.

Brian Terry’s Brother: He want them to tell the truth and that’s one thing my brother didn’t like was a liar. That’s what he didn’t want. He would want the truth.

Sheryl Attkisson: In a letter, the Justice Department says the ATF had never knowingly allowed the sale of automatic weapons to suspected gun runners. Sheryl Attkisson, CBS News, Washington.

Dean Becker: Thank you for joining is on this edition of Century of Lies and as each of these stories has indicates well, there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data and no reason for this Drug War to exist. We have been duped.

Please, do your part to end this madness.

Visit our website: endprohibition.org. Do it for the children.

Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker. Asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs, archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com